The most notable move the Las Vegas Raiders have made since releasing Derek Carr was the surprise trade of Darren Waller to the New York Giants. Just a year ago, the team made him the highest-paid tight end in the NFL when they gave him a three-year, $51 million contract extension. It didn’t take long for the team to sour on him and trade him away for just a third-round pick.
However, a trade may have been a long time coming. The Green Bay Packers showed interest in trading for Waller last year but nothing materialized. It appears that a deal was much closer to happening than expected and more than just the Packers were interested. According to Waller’s agent Drew Rosenhaus, the Raiders almost traded the tight end away last season.
“The Raiders were in negotiations last year to trade Darren,” Rosenaus said on the April 5 episode of the “Pat McAfee Show.” Darren was very nearly traded last offseason. The Packers and the Dolphins were very interested in Darren at that time, but the trade didn’t happen. The Raiders pulled back I think right before those deals could get done. Now with that being said, Darren did sign a contract last offseason, right before the season started, where he became the highest-paid tight end. So much respect to the Raiders for doing that. Darren had two years left on his deal and they made him the highest-paid tight end in NFL history. It worked out, but I never thought the fit was great. I never thought the relationship was great. Once you start looking at trades and moving a guy, so Darren was open to the trade.”
Why Didn’t Raiders Trade Waller?
Waller was clearly a better fit with former head coach Jon Gruden. He was the focal point of the offense under the coach. While current head coach Josh McDaniels has always liked to utilize tight ends, he typically likes ones who are better blockers. Waller is fine as a blocker but he’s a much better receiver. It shouldn’t have taken McDaniels a year to figure that out.
It seems like a big mistake the team didn’t trade Waller last year. They also didn’t have to give him a contract extension. The smarter move would’ve been to either trade him or let him play out his contract for another year. If Waller was never part of the long-term, it doesn’t make much sense to handle the situation as the Raiders did. The team could’ve likely at least got a second-round pick for him last year. They had to end up settling for a late third-round pick, which feels low for a player who has proven he can be a top-three tight end in the NFL.
Will Raiders Add a TE in the Draft?
To replace Waller, the Raiders added Austin Hooper and O.J. Howard. While both are solid veterans, neither has the upside that Waller brought to the offense. This year’s tight end draft class is one of the best in recent memory. There should be potential impact players in many rounds.
The Raiders would be wise to find a high-upside tight end later in the draft. Having Hooper and Howard allows the team to use early picks on other needs but adding a project later in the draft could be a smart move.